"Exploring Media Messages"
Estimated Time of Completion: Two to four 50-minute periods
III. Materials Needed
V. Classroom Assessment
VI. Extensions and Adaptations
VII. Online Resources
VIII. Relevant National Standards
For grades 7-12. This lesson uses discussion and activity to help students explore how advertising and the media affect self-image.
- To learn to recognize negative aspects of advertising and how they exploit young people
- To explore where each individual stands on the issues of advertising and self-image
- To examine how one's own style and techniques are defined and who defines them
- To provide students with tools to feel stronger within themselves by looking at their own values and ideas
- To give participants guidance in taking a stand against negative media images
- To help students learn to believe in themselves and not compare themselves to unrealistic model images
III. Materials Needed:
- Poster board or easel
- A wide variety of popular magazines with teenagers. Be sure to also include popular mainstream adult magazines such as People, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, etc.
- Camera (Optional)
- Construction paper, markers, tape, glue
- Begin by asking students to brainstorm a list of women who display or are identified with feminine ideals, and build a list on the blackboard or an easel. Ask them to identify which women would be considered the ideal "woman". Encourage them to list all types of celebrities: movie stars, music stars, athletes, models, etc. List suggestions as they come up.
- Repeat the process with masculine ideals.
- Break down "ideal" images of women and men even further by brainstorming a list of physical features that the media focuses on. For women, likely suggestions will be: breasts, hair color, legs, etc. For men, likely suggestions might be: arms, chest, legs, posterior, etc. You might then talk a bit about how often-- and in what way-- the media highlights non-physical qualities such as intelligence, sense of humor, and kindness.
- Discuss some of the "role models" and "ideals" from years past. Who was considered ideal in the 1970's? What about the 1950's? How have ideals changed? What caused the change? To further illustrate the point and spark discussion, you might bring in old magazines from these eras.
- Prepare in advance examples from magazines, newspapers etc that depict negative advertising.
- Conceal what the ad is trying to sell.
- Make overheads of the ads. It's best if you can use a color copier for the colored ads.
- Display the ads on an overhead projector and encourage students to guess what the picture is advertising. This should provoke a discussion and begin to bring to the participant's attention the aspects of self-image related to advertising. Discuss whether or not the girls are more likely to purchase that particular product based on the way it is displayed. How should it be marketed so they would buy it?
- To wrap up the activities and discussions, explain to students that they will be creating an "Magazine Ad Review" booklet of their own (which can be an in-class assignment or done as homework):
- Ask students to search magazines for ads that reflect both positively and negatively on their self-image.
- Students will then tape or glue each ad to a piece of contruction paper, writing a short commentary on it and whether it presents negative or positive images.
- If the advertisement is negative, students should write what changes could be made to make it positive.
- "Bind" the pages together in a booklet with staples or string.
- The last page of their booklet might feature an essay on what they believe defines human beauty, their opinion about how the media portrays young people, and what they learned from this lesson.
V. Classroom Assessment:
Score student work accordingly on:
- Class discussion and participation
- Completion of poster or booklet on negative ads, with descriptive sentences about what makes them negative and what could make it a positive ad.
- Completion of letters to companies
- Completion of extra activities as assigned
- Extra credit given for exploring advertising in their local neighborhoods and communities.
VI. Extensions and Adaptations:
VII. Online Resources:
- Have students write down at least 5 or more positive personality traits about themselves and 5 positive physical traits. It can be very difficult to get adolescents and teens to acknowledge positive characteristics about themselves. In turn, you may also go around the room and have each student make a positive comment about every other student in the room. An alternative to having teens list positive traits about themselves is to have them fill in blanks such as: I am great at ________________, I have beautiful ___________, I am a fantastic _____________, etc.
- Instruct the students to list things they value about themselves. Whey do they value these things? Where did these values come from? Are they learned from family or friends? Or the media? Uniquely belong to them? Discuss what values they have are at risk of being compromised by the images portrayed in the media.
- Have the group design their own positive ads, through words or taking photos.
- Make posters of positive words and images related to teens.
- Have students write letters to companies that depict teens in a negative light, expressing their feelings about the issues.
- Have students write a letter to a celebrity they look up to that participates in negative advertising explaining how it affects them and makes them feel.
- Create a collage or booklet specifically on gender-specific ads for toddlers and young children (i.e. ad that show little girls cooking in a toy kitchen and boys working with tools). Find ads that show gender equality.
- PBS In the Mix - "Self-Image: The Fantasy, The Reality"
- PBS "Affluenza"
- Dads And Daughters
- Radiance Magazine (For All Size Women)
- Girls, Inc.
VIII. Relevant National Standards:
These are established by McREL at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/contents.html:
- Students will use descriptive language that clarifies and enhances ideas
- Students will use a variety of sentence structure to express expanded ideas
- Self-Regulation: Students will identify personal strengths and weaknesses
- Self-Regulation: Students will identify their basic values
- Self-Regulation: Students will remind self of strengths
- Self-Regulation: Students will use affirmation to improve sense of self
- Thinking and Reasoning: Students will understand and apply the basic principles of logic and reasoning
About the Author:
Dana Arvidson has worked with at-risk youth for 10 years in residential treatment centers, and has developed group programming for the Ramsey County Probation Department in Minnesota. Her current focus is work with adolescent girls and spending more time with her 10-year-old daughter, Alyssa.
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